About the Toledo War

The Toledo War was a dispute that arose when Ohio decided to include the Toledo area, then part of the Michigan Territory, in Ohio's newly planned canal system in 1834.

The genesis of this war was in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. This ordinance set the southern boundary of Michigan territory at the line drawn from the southern tip of Lake Michigan due east to where it meets Lake Erie. One problem: The south tip of Lake Michigan was determined to be further north than where it is actually located. This made the boundary line too far north. A later survey in 1818 ordered by the territorial governor of Michigan established the true boundary but it was too late. Ohio, claimed the original line which was drawn in error, giving Ohio the mouth of the Maumee River and the area that is now the city of Toledo. The gap between these two boundaries came to be known as the Toledo Strip.

For the next 15 years this issue festered quietly. In 1833 when Michigan applied for statehood, the dispute over the Toledo strip came to the surface again. To try to resolve this conflict, Michigans territorial governor, Stevens T. Mason, tried to negotiate with Ohio Governor Robert Lucas in 1835. Lucas rejected any compromise by setting up a county government in the disputed area of the Toledo Strip.

By 1833, the Michigan Territory had more than the 60,000 inhabitants required by the Northwest Ordinance to form a state government and to formally seek admission to the Union. By 1835, Michigan had drafted a constitution believed to be acceptable to the Congress. This constitution, which was to guide our states development, was adopted by voters in October 1835 by a vote of 6,299 to 1,359. At this point, Michigans admission into the Union may have proceeded smoothly except for the boundary dispute with the state of Ohio.

The reason that this strip of land was so debated and wanted by both Michigan and Ohio was because Toledo was the planned end point of the Miami and Erie canals. The whole crisis of the Toledo Strip reached its height during the 1830s when this canal was being constructed. It was becoming more aware how rich the region was agriculturally, and by the early 1820s, it was clear that the potential for agricultural production couldnt be fulfilled without better transportation. In 1825, legislature passed laws to build navigable canals. The strip of land was narrow, but Toledo was located conveniently on the mouth of Lake Erie. So, both places clearly wanted this land, as small as it was. Additionally, people on this land considered themselves to be residents of Michigan. They voted in Michigan and were served by Michigan courts and county officials in Monroe.

So, as Michigan prepared for statehood, Acting Governor Stevens T. Mason, who was appointed to this post at the age of nineteen by President Andrew Jackson, led the effort to assert Michigans dominion over this area. In April 1835, Governor Mason called for volunteers and mobilized troops to go to the Toledo strip to enforce laws passed by Michigan that imposed a fine or imprisonment on anyone who contested Michigans authority on this land. Led by Mason, who was nicknamed the Boy Governor, the Michigan militia arrested several surveyors who were representing Ohios interests. The actions of Governor Mason incensed President Andrew Jackson, who removed Mason from office on August 29, 1835. Mason was quickly voted in as "Governor" by the people of Michigan, but he was not recognized by Jackson as such.

The Governor of Ohio, Robert Lucas, had no intention to give up the Toledo Strip. According to Ohios constitution, it belonged to Ohio. Ohio had a stronger voice in Congress because it was already a state. Michigan, however, had a strong legal case, based on several original surveys of the area. After almost two years, Congress came up with a compromise that gave the Toledo Strip to Ohio and the western four-fifths of the Upper Peninsula to Michigan. Michigan citizens did not accept this compromise immediately. At the first Convention of Assent in Ann Arbor in September 1836, delegates refused to accept this condition of statehood. However, in December, at the Frostbitten Convention in Ann Arbor, it was accepted. On January 26, 1837, Michigan became the twenty-sixth state.

In addition to Michigans vast land acquisition, the Toledo War bestowed upon Michigans nickname as the Wolverine State. The people of Ohio gave Michigan the derisive name because the wolverine was "the meanest orneriest animal on the face of the earth."

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